Commercial real estate marketing is time consuming and requires testing and practice.  Let’s discuss commercial real estate marketing in its entirety.  You may want to get a snack.  This is going to be a long read!

What is Marketing?

Marketing is the act of attracting and retaining a large base of customers.  In commercial real estate, that would be attracting and retaining clients that need commercial real estate properties bought, sold, and leased.   Sounds simple, right?!  Let’s break it down a bit more.

1. Determine needs of customers

Is there an underserved segment in your area?  This could be either customer-based or geographic.  Focusing on a customer-based segment would specializing in self-storage buildings or restaurants.  Geographic would be concentrating on certain areas like North Las Vegas or a master planned community.  If you’ve noticed a lack of specializing in one area of either customer or geographic market, you may want to consider adopting them!

2. Competitive advantage

What do you do best?  What do you want to do?  There may be a lack of people willing to buy and sell warehouses, but if the industrial districts creep you out, don’t bother.  The point of being an agent is allowing yourself to choose your own path.  Don’t tie yourself to a specialty you hate.

What do you want?  Piles of cash! Me too, but piles of cash aren’t much comfort when you hate your job.  Ssit down and think about the last deal that went smoothly.  Maybe it was when you sold that office condo or leased retail space.  What did you like about that transaction?  What can you do to replicate it?  Is the answer getting more clients with a similar personality?  How about dealing with similar contracts?  Was it the type of commercial property that made things easier?  List some bullet points of why that transaction went well.  Use this list as a blueprint for future deals.  The goals is to replicate your individual process for each transaction.  Your process and specialty will set you apart from other agents.

3. Determine what your segment wants.

Now that you have a bulleted list of your basic process, consider what your target segment wants.  Retail would want a full, 3-ring demographic report of their properties for study (EASI) and an aerial of surrounding retail.  Add those client expectations to your process.  Once you have your services and processes mapped out, create a 1-page leave-behind of exactly what’s expected if a client chooses you.  I.E. Day 1: Listing added to LoopNet, our website and Catylist.  Week One: Email blast to # recipients announcing your property.  Property brochure is created and added to LoopNet.  Week Two: Signage added to property.  Etc.

When your client knows exactly what to expect from you, it’ll calm those impatient calls and “when is this happening?” emails.  You’ll both be on the same page throughout the process.

4. Branding – Cohesive Marketing Materials

One of the worst possible things when branding your company is getting too creative.  Yep, you read that right.  When your materials look completely different from each other, it’s bad.  Very bad.  I know you’re probably sick of your brochure colors, but don’t use one color set for listings and another for your website and service list.  Everything should look cohesive.  It gives them impression of organization, high standards, and quality.  Learn more about cohesive marketing materials.

5. Targeting those customers

In commercial real estate, there are basically two types of potential clients.  (1) Property owners; looking to sell, buy or lease their commercial property.  (2) Business owners / Managers; potential tenants or purchasers of property for business use.  These folks can be broken down further into either geographic regions or specialty, but the process of targeting these two segments is a little different.  Learn more about targeting customers.

6. Pulling a List of Leads

Finding Property Owners.  Use Reonomy to find building owners in your area.  With Reonomy’s system you can research property history which will give you two something to talk about.

Finding Business Owners / Managers.  Use InfoUSA to find current tenants within a certain geographic area or by building.  You’ll be able to see how long they have been in the building and perhaps a Google search can give you an idea if they are expanding or considering adding a new location.

7. The Power of White Papers

Now that you have an awesome list of targeted leads and a great process, how do you turn potential clients to active clients?  Sure, a list of your services is a great resource, but it doesn’t establish you as the leading expert in your specialty.  Instead, consider writing 5-6 pages of real, honest advice geared toward your target market.  You can offer your specialized PDF (Example: “5 Fixable Warehouse Design Mistakes”) in emails, direct mailers and advertisements as a call-to-action.  Ensure your potential client must reach-out before obtaining this PDF.  Whether it’s filling out a form on your website, emailing a reply or giving a call, you’ll see more conversions instantly.  Don’t have time to write?  We have white papers for your use!

Landlords with properties want to know how you’ll fill their vacant space.  Tell them your techniques for ending their vacancy issues and offer something in return for their contacting you, “Call me to receive my Free PDF: 5 Tips to Lowering your Vacancies”.

Commercial real estate investors want to know how you’ll sell their property quickly.  List your strategies for selling and marketing properties for sale and offer a free PDF in exchange for contacting you, “Call me to receive my Free PDF: 5 Tips to Sell your CRE Property Fast”.

Tenants want to know how you’ll find their perfect space and location.  Write down your tenant rep services and offer a helpful PDF if they call you, “Call me to receive my Free PDF: 5 Tips to Leasing your Perfect Space”.

8. Direct Mail

Let me guess…you sent out one mailer that said “I specialize in buying, selling and leasing commercial real estate!  Call me at 555.555.5555!” And now you are certain that direct mail is a money hole.  You’re not doing it right!

Direct mail can be a challenge.  To be successful, separate your target market and messages.  Investors don’t care if you have great leasing services, their concern is selling properties.  Landlords want to know how to lower turn-over and attract the best lessees.  Tenants want the best property for their needs.  You can’t check all these boxes with just one postcard.  Separate your mailing list into (1) investors, (2) landlords, and (3) tenants and send each one a message tailored to them.  Offer your white paper in exchange for them to contact you.

9. Advertising Locally
One of the easiest ways to start advertising locally is to claim your business in popular search engines.  Here are a few to get you started:  Google |  Yelp  |  Bing  |  Yahoo! .  The devil is in the details.  Adding content, photos and videos to your business’s profile received 45% – 61% more views than empty profiles.  If you are active in social media, consider linking your profiles to your social media accounts for additional exposure.  Learn more about advertising locally.

10. Email Newsletters
Everyone wants to do a monthly newsletter, few take the plunge!  I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s difficult.  You need at least two articles for the newsletter whether you write them yourself or link from an outside source.  It’s a lot of work to keep up.  However, if you already write a weekly or monthly blog post, that can easily be the content for your newsletter.  No time to write?  Consider gathering an opt-in email list and sending them updates on new and closed listings.  7 Ideas to Gather Opt-in Email ListSEO blogging services.

11. Email Listings
Emailing announcements on new and closed listings can be an easy way to keep-in-touch with local brokers, agents and clients.  If you have a ton of listings each month, consider one email per month with multiple listings.  You want to keep the frequency at about 1 per week (max) to ensure low unsubscribes.  6 Tips on Email Advertising without being annoying.

12. Purchasing Email Lists
Need to get rid of a problem listing or announce a big shopping center for sale?  Consider using a paid email service to reach the maximum number of viewers.  There are commercial real estate specific email blast services that start at $69 per email.  Some have state specific segmentation that are perfect for announcing space for lease.  Check out my review of 7 different services and details of my personal experiences.  Learn more about purchasing email lists.

13. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
I love it when people say, “SEO is free”.  It cracks me up.  Anything “free” comes with time expenditure.  Sure, you can get a free sailboat tour, but you’ll need to attend a 1-hour time-share presentation.  Free is never free.  SEO takes constant study and keeping up with changes in algorisms to be successful. Do you really have the time for all of that?  We have SEO services specifically for commercial real estate, including optimizing your website and monthly blog writing and back-linking.  Learn more about specially created SEO services for commercial real estate.

14. Blogging
One of the best ways to keep your website ranked higher in search engines is providing new, and relevant content.  Blogging can be a great way to increase your standing in search engines!  Posting a new article once a week is preferred, but once a month can be acceptable in not-so-competitive markets.  No time to blog?  We have a monthly SEO service that will blog either once a month or four times a month for you!  Learn more about blogging services for commercial real estate.

15. Social Media
This is another form of advertising that people say is “free”.  Finding articles, memes, and blogs to regularly post on social media takes time, and time is money.  Achieving engagement, measuring what messages resonate better than others, and attracting additional followers / likes can be a full-time job.  We have a social media service that’s specifically created for commercial real estate.  Services include the setup of your accounts, daily posts and monthly reports on engagement and performance.  Learn more about Social Media services for commercial real estate.

16. Website
A commercial real estate website is your #1 marketing tool.  Even if your broker has a website, consider getting your own.  A broker doesn’t have the ability to focus on your personal services, process and listings.  You can showcase all of these with  I suggest refraining from asking your broker for funding a personal website.  Some day you may leave the brokerage, and want to take your website.  Purchase your own domain (.com), website hosting, and design to ensure there will be no strings to your broker.  Check out our commercial real estate lead generating website design.

17. Advertising your Website
While Google AdWords is a great way to get traffic, it’s another time-consuming activity with a huge learning curve.  Some other ideas are posting on forums, blogs and commenting on new articles.  Posting on related commercial real estate websites (whether it’s a forum, blog or news outlet) can also bring you back-links (websites that are linked to yours).  Back-links can be key to get good search engine rankings.  Also, social media participation can bring in consistent traffic.  Some old-school ideas are applying for awards, get partnerships with other companies or charities, and sponsorship of an event.  Learn more about advertising your website.

18. Prospecting Software
Prospecting software or CRM (client relationship management) can help put all your marketing and sales efforts into one place.  In the beginning, it’s easy to handle 50 or so relationships with clients.  When you start hitting the 75+ mark is when you haven’t the slightest clue who “Dave” is on your voicemail.  Getting to this point shows your business is growing, but it’s also a clue to start working smarter.  CRM systems like Sales Force will give you a single system to put in all your client notes, “Chatter” allows you to pull up relevant news articles for the particular client.  The add-on “Marketing tool” will allow you to setup auto email journeys.  If “Brenda” is a multifamily investor you just spoke to, you can add her to “Multifamily” journey.  The journey can be a pre-setup weekly email with information about multifamily investing, ideas on how to better the property, tips on what renters want, etc..  It’s an easy, hands-off approach to keeping in touch.  You can make as many “journeys” as you need!  Learn more about CRM software.

19. Press Releases
Newspaper clippings and mentions in the press are a great way to show your expertise.  Sending out press releases may seem like an overwhelming task, but it’s quite easy.  The most time-consuming part is gathering your email list of editors.  Searching the publication’s website for “real estate editor” will usually hit on results.  Most publications have PR contact emails listed on the website, it’s just a matter of copy-paste into your Contact List.  Create a group called “Press Release” and send them weekly or monthly information on your closed deals.  A good rule-of-thumb is keep the transaction $300k and above (this dollar # will depend on the competitiveness of the market).  Smaller transactions are not usually published, focus on the big news.  Learn more about press releases.

20. Signage
Your commercial real estate signs should focus on advertising the property.  A listing sign should not be treated as your personal billboard.  Order of importance of information on your sign: #1 Contact phone. #2 Sale or Lease. #3 Building Info. #4 Logo.  Your name is not necessary to sell / lease the building.  If you have limited resources and space, sorry, your name gets the cut!  Learn more about signage.

21. Follow-up Systems
Without a solid follow-up system, all other marketing attempts will suffer in effectiveness. You can have a fancy brochure, informative special reports, a hot website, but without a follow-up system you’re losing potential clients. It’s that simple.  If you don’t have a CRM system, you can create an email journey with MailChimp.  Separate your journeys for effectiveness.  Example: investor / landlord / tenant.  No idea what to write?  We have 3 email journeys to choose from!

22. Marketing your Listings
Remember that process from #2?  Marketing your listings should be in that process!  Create a checklist for yourself that can be applied for all your listings.  (1) Add new property to LoopNet, Xceligent, your personal website.  (2) Create a brochure and place on online directories.  (3) Email your contacts to announce your newest listing (download listing email template).

Stubborn or Premier listings can have additional marketing activities such as postcards, purchasing an email blast (learn more), and an announcement to your Press Release group.

23. Setting Goals
Your lowest goal should be making your marketing pay for itself.  Even if the initial cost seems high, keep it in perspective.  Once you have your website designed, you likely won’t need a full re-design for 3-5 years.  Instead, focus on the recurring monthly costs.  Compare the monthly costs against how many transactions you would need (per year) to break-even.

Let’s put it into perspective.

Average transaction amount $250,000
Average commission percentage 2.5%
Your split from broker 55%
Your average transaction commission $3,437

Your marketing will likely only need one or two transactions to break-even.  That’s an easy goal to hit!


24. Getting Started
Even tackling just one of these items will bring you closer to your goals.  Get started today by writing a blog post, get quotes on your website (check out our website design portfolio), or start thinking about how you’re going to target your market.  Getting the ball rolling is key – don’t stop, keep it rolling!